Previous incarnations of the Wilier Izoard have
impressed us with the character and comfort of the ride, and the XP is no
exception, with a superb frame and fork. You’d expect some compromises on an
Italian thoroughbred priced at £1,750, but the average wheels and poor tyres
are easily upgraded.

The frame is designed around the company’s sport-level
geometry which, on our size large test bike, means a 160mm head tube – shallow
by sportive standards but not as aggressive as their top flight Zero7.

It shares the same seat and head angles for similar
handling traits, but longer chainstays provide more rear end vertical flex,
adding to the nicely damped ride. We’d definitely recommend the Izoard for long
days in the saddle, but the longer wheelbase and comfortable back end don’t
hamper progress when you want to blast a shorter, swifter ride.

The responsive handling might seem at odds with the
bike’s overall plushness, but we welcomed having a bike that can slice through
corners and mix it with big groups of riders, but also provide a stable and
smooth ride that helps get you through at the end of a long spin.

The Shimano-105-equipped model is the cheapest in the
Izoard line-up and some compromises have been made. The Shimano RS30 wheels are
mid-level, with a claimed weight of 1952g the pair – not exactly lightweight,
but they’re tough enough and stayed true throughout the test. The real downside
is that they’re shod with Wilier-branded Chen Shin tyres.

These have a stiff, waxy feel that we quickly found
the limits of, especially on autumn’s greasy road surfaces. They also suffer
from a boggy, slow feel which hampers the bike – imagine Usain Bolt running in
wellies. We switched them out for a set of R500s and the XP immediately felt
swifter, nippier and far more confident cornering at higher speeds.

While we’re more than happy with the Shimano 105
drivetrain matched to a Wilier-branded FSA compact chainset, we’d prefer a
lighter sprocket out back than the 25T here; just a couple of extra teeth would
have kept us spinning rather than grinding when the road really ramped up.

The compact drop bar
makes it easy to get into an aero position in the drops, and the deeply padded
Selle Italia saddle is plenty comfortable. With all the finishing kit matched
in colour and graphics to the classy Izoard frame it catches the eye, and if
you stepped up to top quality tyres the XP would certainly start to live up to
its huge potential.

This bike was tested as part of Cycling Plus magazine’s 2012 Bike Of The Year feature – read the full results in issue 260, on sale Friday 2 March.